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Poison'd errata and Q&A

Started by lumpley, August 24, 2007, 03:15:21 PM

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It's clear that this is a place where the rules hitch. Whether I can make text that solves it or I have to change those specific options substantially, I don't know yet.

Meanwhile, just disallow fight short-circuiting. I totally admit how ugly and stop-gap "just disallow" is.


Jiri Petru

Vincent, thanks for your answers! They sure help a lot. Today we've played our second session and I have a couple of more things to say. I don't think I'll post the actual play report, sorry. I'm not yet used to writing in english, it would take me a lot of time. I can answer specific question, though.


We fought a storm today. Felt a bit clumsy. The storm has nothing to lose, the players have nothing to gain, it doesn't seem to work. Players had absolutelly no reason to escalate, so when we got to "broadside to broadside" range, they accepted a loss at a 1st level of escalation. You see... accepting the loss meant wear & breakage. But if they escalated, they'd get wear & breakage too, and maybe even something worse. As for the side effect of "subduing to the Storm", I didn't know how to interpret it.

Second, I suppose that for the fights between ships I use the captain's Brinkmanship, too? I'm asking just to be sure, couldn't find it mentioned in the rules.

Third, they finally fought the Resolute. Resolute lost at the first level of "cannon to cannon". That means they had to accept wear & breakage. And then? Do they suddenly stop fighting? Do they surrender? Do they retreat? Are they so shaken that pirates can board them and take them without further fight? I mean, what happens when a ship loses a fight that is neither pursuit nor boarding?

I let Resolute retreat. I described the chaos on the board, some gunpowder explosions, smoke, disorder. The ship retreated from the fight to rally and now is once again lurking on the horizon, preparing for a new attack. Was this solution allright?

Thanks in advance,


Jiri Petru

And another one. Sorry for the double post, would edit the previous one if it only was possible.

Vincent, do you intent to write some texts regarding the morality/brutality/adult content issues for the final version? Some techniques perhaps, maybe something like the veils and stuff in Ron Edwards' Sex and Sorcery? I'm not personally sure I need them, but a lot of people seem to have some kind of problem with this. I'm just wondering.

Jiri Petru

And another. Sorry, they just keep coming.

The fights seem to be unbalanced in players' favour. Players almost always have more Xs than me. When I get lucky we have the same number, I've almost never had more(*). If a player gets lucky, he can get 3 or 4 Xs in one success roll, which is more than I can ever hope for. Most of my NPCs have the Profile of 3 or 4, which means only 2 or 3 Xs for me. The fact that players can carry some Xs from a win fight makes this even worse.

All in all, earning Xs seems too easy for me.

The second problem is Brinkmanship. All of my players have 5 or 6 and I only get 6 on a lucky roll. This makes the fights even easier.

The third problem is the fact that players can spend 3 Xs to kill characters. While it is a good mechanic, tt comes very cheap: players can get 3 Xs on a single roll.

These issues might be harmless individually, but when they add up together, they make the life for pirates quite easy. Although I admit I managed to catch a player without Xs today. He failed a succes roll, I began a fight and even though I lost, I spent 2 Xs to cut his eye out. That's what I call satisfaction.


I ran poison'd last night for two players.  It went OK, but not great.  Maybe more players and inter-character strife would help?  We had a number of rules questions:

What happens when characters try to resolve tense situations in a non-piratey fashion?  E.g. my players kept trying to mollify people who wanted their heads by offering mutually advantageous arrangements.  It was unclear how to resolve diplomacy of this manner - I generally tried suggestively asking if they were planning a double-cross (so we could roll treachery) or resolving things by fiat.  Is there a better way?

How exactly is profile calculated for people who are partially but not completely armed?  Can you be disarmed if you have one of the "not a weapon" weapon choices?

Can individual pirates fight companies?  Sometimes a pirate has so many Xs that they can fight one.  If so, how should the GM handle escalation and consequences?

Being accursed is a big deal!  It makes all fights much harder, and for everyone, so ambitions got put on hold while the characters strove to reverse the curse.  I ended up improvising rival voodoo magicians, a father and daughter, for the characters to get involved with, but more guidance on how to handle curses (the text seems to imply that a non-magician wit h"sufficient authority" could deal with a curse, but what does that refer to?  A priest?) would be appreciated. The rules for being an accursing ghost seem to hint at rules for dealing with curses, but I couldn't find them...

Can a pirate interfere in another pirate's fight?  Let's say Cutpurse Bob is fighting the constabulary.  Julian is watching, but wants to intervene midway thru - can he? 

What happens if two or more pirates who are not captain are fighting side-by-side?  Do we appoint one as temporary captain for purposes of the fight?  What happens if the captain and another pirate are fighting side-by-side, but the other pirate is taking the lead in the fight and the captain is just lending a hand?  Is the "lead" pirate treated as captain? 

Is there any way for a non-captain PC to spend Xs when fighting side-by-side?

Is there any way for pirates to work together on not-fighting activities like deceit or brutality?

How do the "spend XXX to kill anyone," the "brutality vs. soul to attack someone unsuspecting" and the fight rules mesh when attackign someone unsuspecting but not helpless?  If you spend XXX, do you also need to roll brutality + soul?  If you succeed in brutality + soul but don't spend Xs, do you kill them outright, or do you just get some Xs for the fight with them?

What gets rolled when a pirate (especially one not captain) tries to command the crew, perhaps to do something for which he lacks the stomach?  How is it decided if they obey him, and how is it decided if they succeed (if they do obey?)



Let's see what I can answer. Jiri first, in order:

Let me just make sure: only the final loser of any fight suffers consequences. If you lose at level 1, you aren't stuck with those consequences; escalating means that you have a shot at no consequences at all. That's why you'd escalate against a storm.

Submitting to a storm would be bad, I think. You'd wind up wherever the storm put you, broken and lost. As GM, take it as an opportunity to bring some cruel fortune into play - want for direction would be appropriate, as would something like "the storm drives you to seek shelter in the same harbor as it drove H.M.S. The Belligerent."

Yes, use the captain's Brinksmanship.

That solution for the Resolute was fine. If the pirates want to pursue, they can make a series of success rolls (if you let them) and then fight to pursue.

In general, other than the named consequences, the circumstances after a fight aren't set mechanically. As GM, you set them.

There'll be no explanatory essays in the final text. I'm not going to add more than a single sheet's (4 columns') worth of text to the game, and it'll all be better rules text. People are going to have to navigate the moral issues themselves.

I haven't had a problem with too many Xs; I'm not sure why you have. Do you call for success rolls that the players are unlikely to win? Like, say a given pirate's really bad at using stealth or care. That player isn't going to remind you to make her roll when her pirate uses stealth or care, you have to notice it yourself.

Call for success rolls aggressively, and make people write down their bargains, even their most informal ones. Two key GM jobs.

The Brinksmanship problem, though, yes. No ship's captain should have a Brinksmanship under 4. Here are new NPC captain Brinksmanship rules, see if they don't work better.
Roll 1d6:
1: Brinksmanship 4
2-3: Brinksmanship 5
4-6: Brinksmanship 6

For spending 3 Xs to kill an NPC, it doesn't apply to anyone you're about to fight with ship to ship or company to company. To take someone out of a group, you have to hold off and spend Xs to take them out of a group, inside the fight - and that doesn't affect the GM's dice.

Let me know if those work!



Oh, Jiri, one more, about too many Xs. You don't have to strictly wait until the player loses a success roll to bring a fight, and you don't have to always bring the climactic fight. A perfect example is when the gunnery master is beating up on the gunners for Xs (and what is it that makes gunnery masters such pricks?): have one of the gunners throw a punch back. All those carefully husbanded Xs flushed away in stupid infighting while the Resolute comes up over the horizon.

This is very piratey behavior.



Okay, Sam. In order:

I wouldn't play the game with only myself plus two. GM plus three players is the functional minimum.

If the players' pirates make an NPC a mutually beneficial offer, you get to decide: accept it or attack them. Remember that if you accept it it's a bargain and the NPC gets to hold the PCs' soul as collatoral.

Asking them if they're using treachery or deceit is very good, but if they say yes, that's IN ADDITION TO striking the bargain. Planning to betray someone when you strike a bargain doesn't mean you haven't struck a bargain.

Someone with a 4-profile advantage doesn't have to fight. That means that a mob can usually subdue a pirate without any fight required.

For the cinematic version, ignore that rule and let anyone fight a mob who wants to.

Be sure that you're using the correct accursing rules, here. Deal with breaking curses the way you deal with everything else you hope to accomplish: by going into danger, attacking the unsuspecting, enduring duress, sneaking & betraying, fighting, spending leisure to meet key people and deal with them in non-piratey ways, and over everything else striking bargains.

Oh, cool. That gives me the exact final thing I need to put on the spending leisure list. Stand by for it.

There's no joining a fight midway through.

Yes, appoint one to be captain for the fight.

Anyone in the fight can spend their Xs on behalf of their captain.

Pirates cannot work together on success rolls. They each have to make their own.

If your pirate attacks someone helpless, you roll brutality vs soul, whether you're going to spend the 3 Xs or not. After you roll brutality vs soul, THEN you spend the 3 Xs to kill them.

If you succeed in brutality vs soul but don't have or don't spend 3 Xs to kill them outright, they get to fight you. GM, you're allowed to make them not so helpless after all (see Tom Reed's boning knife) if you want to and if you aren't screwing up the game's fiction.

You can spend 3 Xs to kill someone who's not helpless, though in which case your pirate's attacking someone who's not helpless and you don't roll brutality vs soul. You just spend the 3 Xs.

Quote from: Ignotus on September 10, 2007, 08:00:52 PMWhat gets rolled when a pirate (especially one not captain) tries to command the crew, perhaps to do something for which he lacks the stomach?  How is it decided if they obey him, and how is it decided if they succeed (if they do obey?)
Nothing gets rolled. That pirate has to strike a bargain with the crew, or they don't obey. (Same thing when the captain orders the crew to do something they really don't want to, too.)

"Do this or I'll have every mother's son of you beaten bloody" is a bargain. On the crew sheet, list it as "[said PC] swore he wouldn't have us beaten us bloody."

When an NPC (like the crew minus the PCs) tries to do something, you just decide whether they do it or not. It doesn't matter if they succeed or fail, so just choose whichever one seems more likely to bring a fight or a new cruel fortune.

Followups welcome, as always!


Jiri Petru

Thanks, Vincent! I don't know when we have our next session, but when it comes, I'll let you know how it worked.

Quote"Do this or I'll have every mother's son of you beaten bloody" is a bargain. On the crew sheet, list it as "[said PC] swore he wouldn't have us beaten us bloody."

This definitelly needs to be written in the rules! Wouldn't think of it myself...
Perpaps have some diverse examples of possible bargains?


I had a situation where after defeating a navy vessel the captain wanted to switch ships. How would you resolve that Vincent?
With regards,
Skjalg Kreutzer


Let them! Use the new ship's list of goodies and profile, as you've created it. If they're trading up sizewise, they'll need to increase the crew appropriately; they'll be a skeleton crew meanwhile.

(Increasing the crew should go on the leisure list, now that I think of it.)



Thats actually what I did, so thats cool. I didnt think to make them a skeleton crew though, which is a nice touch!
With regards,
Skjalg Kreutzer


I am getting ready to run a Poison'd game.  I'm curious:  what are the consequences of losing a fist-fight?  It doesn't seem to mechanically harm you or benefit you to win or lose one.  The same with losing a knife fight at escalation level one.  Everything else I can see - you submit, get mutilated, get a deadly wound, get killed.  Fists and low-level knives?  It seems losing is just as good as winning.

Also, if a player jumps another player, errata says they should roll Brutality vs. Soul.  Victory can give Xs.  Defeat just means you can't do it.  Does that mean you have to roll Brutality vs. Soul to attack another player, or just to ambush them when they aren't looking?  If they are looking, do you just go into a fight? 

Now say you roll Brutality vs. Soul to push the unsuspecting captain overboard.  He decides to endure duress and rolls Soul vs. Devil.  Succeed or fail, what happens to him?  It sounds like, by enduring duress, he's tossed overboard and, uh, drowned.

If a player wants to kill another player's pirate, how does he do so mechanically?  It seems like the victim could always just give on the first round of a fight.  Even if he is put in the other guy's power by defeat, and the other guy says, "I stomp his head in!", it seems like he could endure duress and take it or (or not - I'm confused what the repurcussions of failing or succeeding on a roll to endure duress might be.)

Thanks for the pre-game help.



1. The mechanical consequences for losing a fistfight, or for ditching out of a knife fight before it gets serious, are that you lose all your Xs, while the winner goes forward with Xs for the win. (The in-fiction consequences might be significant too).

2. You roll brutality vs soul to attack someone helpless or unsuspecting. If they aren't helpless or unsuspecting, just go straight into the fight.

3. By enduring duress, he's tossed overboard. There's no "...and drowned" in the rules. Here's what might happen:

a) His player might take him out of play, by the "separated for good" rule. This might mean he drowns, might not, at the player's whim.

b) His player might make some more rolls for Xs to get back into fighting range. Enduring more duress by clinging to the side of the boat while being pounded with waves, going into danger by climbing the hull, using stealth and treachery by clinging below the rail until nightfall, attacking someone unsuspecting after dark.

c) Preceding (b), the GM might make an aggressive move and say "being tossed into the ocean from the deck and left to drown counts as receiving a fatal blow. Make a bargain or die, as per the fatal blow rules." This is within the GM's rights, and at the GM's option.

4. You're right. To kill a player's character, you have to get the player's participation - the player has to stay in a knife- or gunfight then fail to make a bargain, stay in a swordfight and lose, or volunteer to take her character out of play.

It's cool, because there's nobody you need to kill worse than you need to make a bargain with them. "I can't kill your pirate without your participation, but I can make his life a living fucking nightmare of enduring duress and losing fights. How about you ___ instead?" Or else, "you can't kill my pirate without my participation, so I'm just going to keep enduring duress until you get sick of this. How about you ___ instead?"

As GM, if it looks like one player is hunkering down for an extended bout of enduring duress, and the other is going to fall for it - I've never seen this but I can imagine it - just say "fuck the both of you. Make a bargain, right now."



Quote4. You're right. To kill a player's character, you have to get the player's participation - the player has to stay in a knife- or gunfight then fail to make a bargain, stay in a swordfight and lose, or volunteer to take her character out of play.

Thanks.  It's all clear to me so far.

I have a follow-up question.  Can you force someone into a fight?  Can I pull a sword on someone and initiate a fight?  Or can the victim always choose to endure duress every time I say that I stab him?  And what are the consequences of failing that roll to endure duress?  I gather that pass or fail on the roll determines whether you gain Xs, not whether you succeed, although narratively a failure could indicate squealing in pain or weeping or some other humilation.  And would saying that you endure duress when run through give you a deadly wound?  I gather than GM fiat would come into play there, depending on the situation.

The reason I ask about forcing a fight is this:  if I pull a sword and force a conflict on you, your character can suddenly die due to an event not of your choosing, and with no way out.  I say that because we could both roll the first round of the fight and I could lose.  The choice to give or escalate is not yours - it's mine.  I escalate and lose again.  We're once again faced with a situation in which I, not you, choose to give or escalate.  And then I escalate and win this time, bringing us to the third tier of escalation - instant death for you.   Now you are in the position of being able to only spend Xs to win, and if you haven't got enough, you lose the fight and die - a fight you didn't agree to have.  In short, I brought the fight to you and killed you without your permission.  To me, that suggests that all conflicts must be giveable before they even begin, and that conflict must be agreed to by both sides.  Is that correct?

To that I add - what if one person on a side chooses not to enter a conflict involving multiple people on both sides?  How do they do that mechanically?  If Pirate Joe says, "I run those two scallywags through!" and Pirate Pete says, "Nope, I fight back" and Pirate Jim says, "Huh, I don't wanna die" and refuses the conflict, how is that handled in terms of rolling dice?

Thanks again for the information!